after Deana Lawson’s photo, Woman With Child


“How much a dollar cost?”

Kendrick Lamar 


my arm a tool. my thumb a tool. 

my couch too. you cain’t clock, 

mama say, no 9-to-5 on ya ass

dreams. she still dreams of workin’ 

from home. how much a new couch 

cost? i ask god. how many ways, god,

can a couch be used for somethin’ 

other than sittin’? one day as a kid i 

woke up to my daddy, who mama say 

ain’t shit. usin’ the couch as a hospital 

bed my ass but my daddy, he somethin’ 

to me. mama was gone that day & 

there was no nurse in white. no nurse 

in blue. only, underneath a bag of ice

wrapped in a wet rag on top of mounded

flesh, a black eye. what good is a tool 

that don’t work? what good is a tool

not used right? 




my arm a tool. my thumb a tool. 

my couch too. i sit everyday & stare 

blankly into a mirror. like it’s a camera

or somethin’. hopin’ it’a capture somethin’ 

worthy enough to be called pretty. my face 

a tool. if i turn it this way, you use me 

like that. if i turn it that way, you use me

like this. my body a tool. my body: 

(no matter the day it comes) a gift. 

a baby, maybe mine’s, maybe not, wails 

underneath my collarbone. doctor say 

i need to eat. another child, my baby girl, 

everybody mistake for a boy, sucks 

his thumb. i mean her thumb. my child:

a girl. the pink birds on her shirt mean

she a girl. the mind a tool if you let it.




assumption a tool. judgment a tool. 

curiosity too. dependin’ on how 

you use ‘em. ‘magine, if my arm a tool 

& my thumb a tool & i take this couch 

back to where i got it, what i could 

then do with that money.